In constant swinging between the two blocks (east and west) Yugoslavia managed to achieve many Western hi-tech assets and at the same time obtain at the time "unknown" new MiGs as the first state outside the Soviet Union. That is the reason those planes were top secret material for many years to come.
The pilots had to quickly adapt from the Sabres and Thunderjets to MiG-21's which was a much faster and aerodynamic aircraft with far less cockpit visibility. The early generation of pilots were used to flying in TV-2, T-33, F-84G and F-86E's, so the new MiG was more than a challenge to adapt to. It was easier to switch from Sabre D than E, because of the afterburners used by Sabredogs - 100% thrust on E or 45% thrust on D - same power used for take offs on MiGs. There were also many problems in gear-flight suits and helmets, the early models were very difficult to wear and use.
The two seaters (NL-12) were received years later. It took them quite some time to cope with such machines so the F-86E's from 204 fighter regiment stayed in Batajnica AB until 1965 - a bizarre period where one unit was flying MiGs and Sabres at the same time.
The 204. fighter regiment had three squadrons : 126th, 127th and 128th. Later part of the regiment split to 117th reg. and was re based to Bihač (today BiH) - Željava underground base aka object 505 or Klek. It was one of the largest underground AB's and the biggest construction made in Yugoslavia. It was build under the mount Plješevica and could survive a nuclear attack. It had a net of five underground tunnels leading to an exit covered by large steel door.
Entrance to the tunnels cover by steel/concrete doors
The AB was occupied by the time of the Czechoslovakian crisis, so it became home of the pilots and their crews and for a longer period. The planes were equiped with K-13 (AA-2 Atol) missiles - equivalent to the US AIM-9 sidewinder, and the crews on constant alert and signal to take off and engage.
K-13 on under wing pylons
The L-12 were used for a relatively short period, it could be used as an interceptor only in good weather conditions so it was soon starting to get replaced by MiG-21PFM codenamed L-14 in 1967.
Priština (today's Kosovo) was the L-12's last home until 1979.
To quote a pilot who remembers his photo fresh of academy in front of a F-86D; It is a very sad memory for me. Half of the men from the photo were killed in MiGs. After Sabredogs we all switched to L-12 and defended the airspace west of 18th meridian. A few of the pilots, mostly Croats and Slovenes who sat in those underground tunnels were chasing Italian F-104 Starfighters over Slovenia. Half of those guys died doing that. That's why it is very difficult for me to accept that today Slovenian airspace is being watched by Italian AF.
revija Obramba: Zgodbe o obrambi neba - Vražji (Slovenski) fantje v letečih strojih
The kit to portray this beautiful machine is the 2012 Trumpeter release. It has some shape issues and lacks some details but overall it's a very good and decent kit.
I did it OOB with Balkan Model decals. It was painted with different shades of alluminium Alclad colors.
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